Ecological restoration on magnetite tailings: Six years of lessons learned

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Adam Cross

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Mine tailings are challenging substrates for ecological restoration as the establishment of diverse native plant communities can be constrained by a range of edaphic factors. Understanding the effect of edaphic filters on community establishment is foundational for developing effective restoration solutions for tailings and requires a clear evidence-base as to what types of species and communities are likely sustainably reinstated. We present evidence from six years of glasshouse and field studies examining species and community establishment on magnetite tailings. While the majority of native plant species and nutrient-acquisition guilds (approximately 75% of reference floristic biodiversity) are selected against on unweathered tailings with plant growth limited by a lack of available nitrogen and high alkalinity (pH >9), a small number of species exhibiting particular functional and nutrient acquisition strategies represent potential pioneer taxa capable of kick-starting critical ecological processes. Achieving successful restoration goals on alkaline mine tailings is likely unsuccessful unless strategies to ameliorate substrate hostility such as acidification of the soil profile and improving N availability are prioritised.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration